World AIDS Day

Geneva, Switzerland
1 December 2005

I was introduced to Carolina Pinto in August 2003 when I travelled to Angola and met with people living with HIV. Carolina was then 20 years old and bravely speaking out to the African media - despite the strong discrimination against people living with HIV. Her aim: to teach people about preventing disease and to challenge us to do more to stop the death toll.

She was one of the fortunate ones - she had access to antiretrovirals. At that point only one centre in the whole of Angola offered some treatment, but even that was not secure. She told me that she was afraid for her future, that she didn't know where the therapy was going to keep coming from. She passionately wanted a life, to become a mother and to study and become a doctor. Two years ago, WHO and UNAIDS launched the "3 by 5" strategy - to provide HIV therapy to 3 million people in low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2005.

In just 18 months, the number of people on antiretroviral treatment in Africa and Asia has tripled. More than 1 million people in the developing world now have access to antiretroviral therapy.

We talked to Carolina again this week. She told us that, although there has been some progress, access is still a real problem in her country. She said that most people from the provinces can't afford to come to Luanda for treatment, and their families refuse to house them.

Some of Carolina's hopes have been met in the last two years - she has a young son. She is still on treatment - paid for by friends. She is desperate to survive - more than that - to live. She wants to bring up her son and be able to share a long life with her husband. But she doesn't plan to stay at home. She is now working with others to promote information and education, changing mindsets through working with the media, using television, personal stories, and individual statements to get the messages across.

She wants universal access for everyone who needs treatment. So do the G8, and all of the countries at the World Summit in New York this year. This is what "3 by 5" started. This is what we have to achieve.

Because of "3 by 5", and the tireless work of people like Carolina, I think we are now able to start counting the number of lives saved, not just the lives lost.

But that doesn't mean that we can feel comfortable about our progress. It's still too little. And for so many, already too late. That is the pressure on us all - to find the fastest and most effective ways to get rid of the bottlenecks to access, increase people's understanding about AIDS, and get treatment and prevention programmes working hand in hand.

Today in Lesotho a campaign begins to offer HIV testing and counselling to all households by the end of 2007. This massive scale-up of services is also being seen in other high-burden countries such as Botswana and Swaziland. The growing availability of affordable AIDS treatment in these and other developing countries is transforming the fight against AIDS.

A key way forward is through community involvement. Grassroots organizations are being led by HIV-positive people who can teach others about prevention, treatment, and care. This sort of community involvement is already taking treatment to the most remote, resource-poor settings. The campaign in Lesotho will use extensive community mobilization and education, with "people's committees" established at local, district and national levels. Each country will wish to find its own priorities and establish the programmes that respond to the specific needs of its peoples.

The issues that Carolina raised two years ago are as fresh and valid now as they were then. The challenge to us is to fulfil her vision - which we share - of respect for the dignity of each human being, and their right to care.

Thank you.